Great breakfasts are made of grandmother’s stories and savoury oatmeal.


Here are quick recipes for tangy, nutritious oatmeal starring pineapple, bird eye chillies and green tomatoes.

Oats are very easy to cook and incredibly versatile. (Photo: Thinkstock)Oats are very easy to cook and incredibly versatile. 

My first encounter with oats was something out of a fairy tale. Literally. I was a kid, reading the story of Goldilocks, when I came across this bewildering thing called “porridge”. It was not only not pronounced “porridugee”, but my grandmother — the indulger of all my toddler-sized whims — flatly refused to make this dish for me. Porridge was oats boiled in milk, she explained with a shudder. It was tasteless slop. I was extremely confused. Why would Goldilocks eat three bowls of tasteless slop? It made no sense.

Approximately 30 years later, as I sprinkled bacon bits as a final garnish over my oats with fresh pineapple jam, I found myself longing for my grandmother. She opened up the world for me, with everything that she fed me, whether it was with food or stories. I’d have loved to have changed her mind about porridge because here before me were the boiled oats that she’d so despised and in their ungarnished innocence, they did indeed bear a striking resemblance to slop. But tasteless? Not by a long shot.

Here’s what not enough people tell you about oats while singing their praises. Yes, they’re nutritious, a great source of fibre, low calorie yet filling, and capable of boosting your superpowers. But most importantly for gluttons like me, oats are very easy to cook and incredibly versatile.

Not that I knew this when I picked up my first packet of oats. The idea of having oatmeal (or porridge) for breakfast had been part of a doomed attempt to lose weight. If I’d stuck to the instructions on the back and simply boiled the oats in milk and drizzled honey or sprinkled a little sugar over them or added some fresh fruit, as per the instructions, maybe I would have lost a kilogram or two. Unfortunately, in this avatar, oats taste the way they look: awful and gloopy. There was no way I could begin my day with something so depressingly bland.

So I started rifling through my fridge and found some chunks of pineapple, some bird’s eye chillies and a couple of strips of bacon. About 30 minutes later, the pineapple had been blitzed and cooked with sugar to become a lovely, runny, fresh jam. The bacon had been fried crisp and the chillies had been diced. Into the oats all this went — warm, yellow jam; bright, red spots of chilly; crunchy, rust-coloured bacon. It was no longer low calorie but praise the pineapple, it was delicious.

The beauty of oats is that they can be sweet, savoury, spicy, tangy — whatever you chuck at them, oats will absorb that flavour. Boil the oats in milk (with a touch of vanilla, if you’re feeling indulgent) and they become the perfect base for a sweet breakfast. Swirl in some strawberry puree or treacle or some ginger syrup. Garnish with some pomegranate or chopped walnuts or even green chillies (depends on how adventurous you want to be with your breakfast).

For savoury oats, cook them in water or diluted milk and fold in leftovers. From chilli chicken to sambar, bhindi bhaji to kosha mangsho, everything works with oats. But don’t limit yourself to recycling. Cook the oats in stock and turn those humble grains into gourmet. A few minutes in a tom yam broth and suddenly, each spoonful of gloop is plump with spice. The trick is to pick strong flavours that will swamp the oats and add a garnish that’s crunchy or compliments the oats with a little extra texture.

So yes, it’s taken a few decades, but finally, I understand why Goldilocks slurped her way through three bowls of porridge. And yes, like the bears in that story, I’d be extremely upset if Goldilocks ate my oatmeal.

Add a broth made of lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, garlic and bird eye chillies to your oatmeal and your Tom Yam oatmeal is ready.Add a broth made of lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves, galangal, garlic and bird eye chillies to your oatmeal and your Tom Yam oatmeal is ready.

Tom Yam Oatmeal with Tomatoes
This is a very basic recipe that you can add bells and whistles to, depending upon your taste. Non-vegetarians can add prawn to this, for instance. How much you use of each ingredient will depend on how much you broth you want to make. I usually make a big pot and freeze half of it for later use.

Ingredients (All measures are approximate)
For about one litre of broth
5 to 6- Chopped tomatoes
2 stalks- Lemon grass
10 to 12- Kaffir lime leaves
½ inch- Galangal
5 cloves- Garlic
Bird’s eye Chillies, to taste
Lemon juice, of 5-6 lemons
1 tsp- Sesame oil
A pinch of sugar
Salt, to taste

Method
*Bruise the stalks of lemon grass and galangal. Tear up the Kaffir lime leaves. Bruise the garlic and slice the chillies. If you can’t get Kaffir lime leaves, use regular lemon zest.

*Heat the sesame oil.

*Add the tomatoes, lemon grass, galangal, garlic, chillies and lime leaves. Let it cook on medium flame for a couple of minutes. When the aromas are released, add a litre of water. Lower the flame and cook for at least 30 minutes. Some foam may collect on top. Just skim it off. Add sugar and salt to taste and stir. The broth should be pungent. Turn off the flame and add the lime juice. You can also use tamarind for the sour taste.

*The easiest option, though, is to buy tom yam cubes that you just have to drop into boiling water to make the broth.

*Cook oats as per instructions on packet, only replace the milk with tom yam broth.

*Add sun-dried tomatoes to the oats.

*Cook until both oats and tomatoes are soft. Add broth if the mixture becomes too thick.

Optional garnish:
*Chop up one green tomato and half an onion.

*Heat a dash of sesame oil.

*Add the chopped tomatoes and onion. Sprinkle some sugar over them. Take off the flame when the tomato has browned a little. The crunch of green tomatoes with the thick pungency of the tom yam oats works beautifully.

Fresh pineapple jam, bacon bits - there's a whole lot of flavour and a lot more nutrition in your bowl of savoury oatmeal.Fresh pineapple jam, bacon bits – there’s a whole lot of flavour and a lot more nutrition in your bowl of savoury oatmeal.

Oatmeal with Fresh Pineapple Jam

Ingredients (All measures are approximate)
For Fresh Pineapple Jam
1 cup- Pineapple, cut into chunks
½ cup- Sugar
1 tbsp- Lemon juice

Method
*Put the pineapple into the blender so that it breaks down. If you want it smooth, keep blending. I like a few chunks of fruit in my oatmeal so I leave it lumpy.

*Pour the pineapple puree into a saucepan and put on medium flame. Add sugar and mix well. Once the mixture starts bubbling, lower the flame. Keep stirring and cooking for about 15 minutes, until it thickens to a sauce-like consistency.

*When it’s thickened, switch off the flame.

*Add lemon juice and mix well.

*Fold it into oats cooked in milk (as per proportions given on the packet).

*Garnish with crushed walnuts or green chillies or both.

Deepanjana Pal is the managing editor of Newslaundry and resigned to the fact that she will never be slim.

 

‘Impossible’ rocket drive works and could get to Moon in four hours.


The British designed EM Drive actually works and would dramatically speed up space travel, scientists have confirmed.

A view of the Earth from the Moon

Interplanetary travel could be a step closer after scientists confirmed that an electromagnetic propulsion drive, which is fast enough to get to the Moon in four hours, actually works.

The EM Drive was developed by the British inventor Roger Shawyer nearly 15 years ago but was ridiculed at the time as being scientifically impossible.

It produces thrust by using solar power to generate multiple microwaves that move back and forth in an enclosed chamber. This means that until something fails or wears down, theoretically the engine could keep running forever without the need for rocket fuel.

The drive, which has been likened to Star Trek’s Impulse Drive, has left scientists scratching their heads because it defies one of the fundamental concepts of physics – the conservation of momentum – which states that if something is propelled forward, something must be pushed in the opposite direction. So the forces inside the chamber should cancel each other out.

However in recent years Nasa has confirmed that they believe it works and this week Martin Tajmar, a professor and chair for Space Systems atDresden University of Technology in Germany also showed that it produces thrust.

The drive is capable of producing thrust several thousand times greater than even a photon rocket and could get to Mars within 70 days or Pluto within 18 months. A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years to reach right now, could be reached in just 100 years.

“Our test campaign cannot confirm or refute the claims of the EM Drive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far,” said Prof Tajmar.

“Nevertheless, we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena.”

 

“Our measurements reveal thrusts as expected from previous claims after carefully studying thermal and electromagnetic interferences.

“If true, this could certainly revolutionise space travel.”

 

The EM drive has been likened to the Impulse Drive in Star Trek’s vessel of choice, the Starship Enterprise

Shawyer also claims that he is just a few months away from publishing new results confirming that his drive works in a peer reviewed journal.

However scientists still have no idea how it actually works. Nasa suggested that it could have something to do with the technology manipulating subatomic particles which constantly pop in and out of existence in empty space.

Big Pharma Charges Up to 10x More for Drugs in US than in Other Countries.


There is one important factor which makes the United States (US) a very lucrative market for Big Pharma – inflated drug prices. Big pharma generates about $250 billion+ per year in sales of prescription drugs in the United States alone. This isn’t just because of the sheer amount of people in the US population who take prescription medications for some ailment or condition. What makes the US one of the most lucrative markets for Big Pharma is that drug companies are charging up to 10 times as much for pharmaceuticals when compared to other developed countries.

big-pharma-rips-us-off

Below is a chart offering data from the 2013 Comparative Price Report published by the International Federation of Health Plans.

2013 data from the International Federation of Health Plans; Source: http://usuncut.com/news/us-drug-prices-in-the-us-are-literally-insane-when-compared-to-other-nations/

2013 data from the International Federation of Health Plans; Source

The examples in the chart above are common drugs that are used for illnesses that affect millions. For example, depression and anxiety affect about 18% of US adults; 1.5 million suffer from rheumatoid arthritis; and gastrointestinal diseases such as acid reflux affect nearly 60 percent of the US adult population in any given year.

To add a little more depth into how these prices can affect a person, consider that the average monthly income in the US is around $4000.

So why is drug price gouging such a serious problem across the US pharmaceutical industry? US laws, the current state of medical insurance, Medicare, and drug research are all parts of the problem, leaving the little to no oversight in how much drug makers can charge for their drugs.

“As opposed to other countries, American laws actually prevent the government from restraining drug prices. Federal law even prevents the single largest drug buyer – Medicare – from negotiating drug prices. This is a perfect example of how Big Pharma has successfully manipulated laws in such a way that they can operate completely unrestrained in the US, under the flimsy argument that high prices and profits are required in order to fund costly research to develop potentially groundbreaking drugs to treat our ever-proliferating ills.” Source

Should US taxpayers and patients carry the responsibility of subsidizing the R&D efforts of drugs that are developed in the US, but then sold around the world?

The scheme becomes even more elaborate when you consider that pharmaceutical companies give rebates to hospitals to create incentive to dispense certain drugs, and as a result the hospital can then make greater profits. Medicare bases its payments on an “average base price” of a drug, even though different hospitals buy the drugs at varying prices and benefit from rebate discounts. Hospitals can make as much as 50 percent or more profit on what Medicare pays for the drug!

As a result, Medicare and, therefore, all US taxpayers contribute handsomely to profits of hospitals and drug companies. Recently investor Martin Shkreli made headlines when he purchased the rights to an HIV drug and raised the price of it by hundreds of percent, showing that investors are using this market to prey on both taxpayers and people who are in need of treatment.

Is there a reasonable justification for putting this financial burden on the US public? Share your thoughts.

The Effect Of Cannabis On Pregnant Women & Newborns


It’s almost too taboo to discuss: pregnant women & marijuana. It’s a dirty little secret for women, particularly during the harrowing first trimester, who turn to cannabis for relief from nausea and stress.

Pregnant women in Jamaica use marijuana regularly to relieve nausea, as well as to relieve stress and depression, often in the form of a tea or tonic.

In the late 1960s, grad student Melanie Dreher was chosen by her professors to perform an ethnographic study on marijuana use in Jamaica to observe and document its usage and its consequences among pregnant women.

the-effect-of-cannabis-on-pregnant-women-newborns

Dreher studied 24 Jamaican infants exposed to marijuana prenatally and 20 infants that were not exposed. Her work evolved into the book Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science and Sociology, part of which included her field studies.

Most North American studies have shown marijuana use can cause birth defects and developmental problems. Those studies did not isolate marijuana use, however, lumping cannabis with more destructive substances ranging from alcohol and tobacco to meth and heroin.

In Jamaica, Dreher found a culture that policed its own ganja intake and considers its use spiritual. For the herb’s impact when used during pregnancy, she handed over reports utilizing the Brazelton Scale, the highly recognized neonatal behavioral assessment that evaluates behavior.

The profile identifies the baby’s strengths, adaptive responses and possible vulnerabilities. The researchers continued to evaluate the children from the study up to 5 years old. The results showed no negative impact on the children, on the contrary they seemed to excel.

Plenty of people did not like that answer, particularly her funders, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They did not continue to flip the bill for the study and did not readily release its results.

“March of Dimes was supportive,” Dreher says. “But it was clear that NIDA was not interested in continuing to fund a study that didn’t produce negative results. I was told not to resubmit. We missed an opportunity to follow the study through adolescence and through adulthood.”

Now dean of nursing at Rush University with degrees in nursing, anthropology and philosophy, plus a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, Dreher did not have experience with marijuana before she shipped off for Jamaica.

She understands that medical professionals shy from doing anything that might damage any support of their professionalism, despite marijuana’s proven medicinal effects, particularly for pregnant women.

Dr. Melanie Dreher’s study isn’t the first time Jamaican ganja smoking was subjected to a scientific study. One of the most exhausting studies is Ganja in Jamaica—A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use by Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas, published in 1975. Unfortunately for the National Institute of Mental Health’s Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, the medical anthropological study concluded:

Despite its illegality, ganja use is pervasive, and duration and frequency are very high; it is smoked over a longer period in heavier quantities with greater THC potency than in the U.S. without deleterious social or psychological consequences [our emphasis].

This Common Activity Is Reducing Your IQ, According to Research.


Lack of sleep affects intelligence


Missing an hour of sleep turns a sixth grader’s brain into that of a fourth grader.

The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the gap between a normal fourth-grader and a normal sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly-sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explained.

Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged fifteen more minutes than the C’s, and so on. Wahlstrom’s data was an almost perfect replication of results from an earlier study of over 3,000 Rhode Island high schoolers by Brown’s Carskadon. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out. Every fifteen minutes counts.

Not only does it affect intelligence, lack of sleep also reduces impulse control.

<strong>Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night</strong> “The former scrambles your priorities and all your plans for the day and the latter just gives you insomnia,” says Ferriss, who insists “email can wait until 10am” or after you check off at least one substantive to-do list item.

A different mechanism causes children to be inattentive in class. Sleep loss debilitates the body’s ability to extract glucose from the bloodstream. Without this stream of basic energy, one part of the brain suffers more than the rest—the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for what’s called “Executive Function.” Among these executive functions are the orchestration of thoughts to fulfill a goal, prediction of outcomes, and perceiving consequences of actions. So tired people have difficulty with impulse control, and their abstract goals like studying take a back seat to more entertaining diversions. A tired brain perseverates—it gets stuck on a wrong answer and can’t come up with a more creative solution, repeatedly returning to the same answer it already knows is erroneous.

And when we’re tired it’s actually harder to be happy. We can recall negative memories more than positive ones when we’re exhausted.

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine. In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

 

How Starshot will explore a nearby star


Famed physicist Stephen Hawking and tech billionaire Yuri Milner just announced a radical plan to send tiny, blazingly fast space ships to the nearest star system to our own, Alpha Centauri.

The plan involves tiny, mass-produced nanocraft that should cost about as much as an iPhone.

The core concept of the project, called Breakthrough Starshot, is to shoot powerful lasers at thousands of palm-size “nanocraft” equipped with light sails.

This should propel the small robots upwards of 20% the speed of light, helping them reach our neighboring star (which is about 25 trillion miles away) in a couple of decades.

Here’s how these tiny celestial sailboats might work.

Within the nanocraft will be a StarChip, a "gram-scale wafer" the carries all the necessary equipment — thrusters, power supply, communications, a camera, and more — the spaceship needs to explore deep space.
The plan involves tiny, mass-produced nanocraft that should cost about as much as an iPhone.

Within the nanocraft will be a StarChip, a “gram-scale wafer” the carries all the necessary equipment — thrusters, power supply, communications, a camera, and more — the spaceship needs to explore deep space.

The tiny ships will be propelled by an array of powerful lasers back on Earth, called the "light beamer."
Within the nanocraft will be a StarChip, a “gram-scale wafer” the carries all the necessary equipment — thrusters, power supply, communications, a camera, and more — the spaceship needs to explore deep space.
But first a large mothership will ferry thousands of nanocraft to a high-altitude orbit around Earth.

The tiny ships will be propelled by an array of powerful lasers back on Earth, called the “light beamer.”
The light beamer array will use adaptive optics to shoot gigawatts of laser power up to the nanocraft, all while compensating for atmospheric conditions in real-time.
But first a large mothership will ferry thousands of nanocraft to a high-altitude orbit around Earth.
In addition to propelling nanocraft, the light beamer array will also serve as a receiver for any data that's beamed back to Earth.
Each nanocraft will have a “light sail” that’s only a few hundred atoms thick and weighs mere grams.
The nanocraft might travel as fast as 20% the speed of light, which should get them to Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years.
The light beamer array will use adaptive optics to shoot gigawatts of laser power up to the nanocraft, all while compensating for atmospheric conditions in real-time.

Once a light sail catches the concentrated light beam, the nanocraft will accelerate to its target speed within minutes.
Though they'll travel at unbelievable speed, it will be a long, lonely trip.
In addition to propelling nanocraft, the light beamer array will also serve as a receiver for any data that’s beamed back to Earth.

The nanocraft might travel as fast as 20% the speed of light, which should get them to Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years.

Though they’ll travel at unbelievable speed, it will be a long, lonely trip.

Magnesium deficiency — a less detected condition with serious effects.


The mineral is known to improve athletic performance as it increases glucose availability as well as lactase clearance in muscles.

magnesium, magnesium deficiency, magnesium deficiency symptoms, magnesium deficiency effects, magnesium deficiency prevention, mineral deficiency, vital minerals, healthThere is experimental and clinical evidence that the amount of magnesium in urban and western diets is insufficient to meet individual demands.

Magnesium deficiency in our bodies is one of the most under-recognised deficiencies compared to other nutrients. The mineral, widely available in our food supply and environment, seems to be causing serious concern. According to research published in the journal ‘Nutrition Reviews’ in March 2012, more than half (56 per cent) of the US population consumed less than the required amount of magnesium in 2001-02, which corresponded to a sharp increase in type-2 diabetes in the country.

Magnesium plays an important role in energy production and storage, muscle contraction and maintenance of blood glucose levels. It has been established as a key nutrient, especially for individuals with a regular exercise regimen and athletes.

The mineral is known to improve athletic performance as it increases glucose availability as well as lactase clearance in the muscles during exercise. Magnesium is also known to promote strength and cardio-respiratory function. Its role among athletes appears to be far more significant than realised and can have life-threatening consequences if overlooked.

Magnesium deficiency is associated with muscle weakness, cramps, structural damage of muscle fibre, strength and power limitation, therefore increasing susceptibility to cellular damage and affecting muscle performance. Symptoms of the deficiency include insomnia, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, hyper-excitability, decreased concentration and depression. Severe magnesium deficiency may cause low blood calcium and potassium levels, loss of appetite, nausea, arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), even cardiac arrest and sudden death.

As magnesium is lost through sweat and urine, individuals engaged in intense exercise or those working out at high temperatures lose more of the mineral than the average person; hence their requirement is 10 to 20 per cent more than most individuals. Accumulating evidence supports the theory that athletes and those involved in regular exercise must pay special attention to their nutrient and micronutrient status.

Magnesium deficiency is not only extremely common but is also linked to several diseases and health problems. But many symptoms of low magnesium are not unique to this deficiency alone, making it difficult to diagnose accurately. Blood or serum magnesium levels may not always reflect the true status. Therefore, low magnesium levels often, go completely unrecognised and untreated.

Magnesium deficiency is common among those suffering from chronic digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, mal-absorption, celiac disease, gluten-related disorders, endocrine problems, vitamin D deficiency, diabetes, chronic alcoholism, diuretics or among those who consume excess sugar or caffeine.

The mineral is found abundantly in foods like green vegetables, legumes, peas, beans and nuts (specially almonds), some shellfish and most whole unrefined cereals. Hard water has been found to contain more magnesium than soft water. Cooking decreases the magnesium content of food.

There is experimental and clinical evidence that the amount of magnesium in urban and western diets is insufficient to meet individual demands and that magnesium deficiency may be contributing to common health problems. However, supplementation must be done under the care of a qualified professional.

– See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/magnesium-deficiency-symptoms-effects-2755529/#sthash.TsdIcZ21.dpuf

 

Burn Stubborn Belly Fat Like Crazy and Get Flat Tummy with These 5 Drinks


Regular exercise and metabolism-boosting foods can help you burn the belly fat. If eating whole foods is a problem for you, you can try making these healthy, fat-burning drinks that will help you shrink your waist and melt your belly fat naturally. Flush the fat away with these 5 drinks that will have you on your way to a slim trim body in no time.

1. Lemon-Ginger Flat Belly Drink

It’s amazing how a few simple ingredients can keep you fit and healthy. Why warm water? Because warm water aids digestion. Drink it first thing in the morning and get your digestive system off to a great start.
2. Cucumber-Ginger Flat Belly Drink

Ginger has been used medicinally since ancient times. It has immune boosting powers, anti-inflammatory compounds, and relieves gastrointestinal issues. Cucumbers provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.
3. Green Tea with Ginger Flat Belly Drink

Green tea is a treasure trove of nutrients that help brain activity and lower cancer risk. Plus, green tea reduces the absorption of fat from the foods that we eat. Combine it with the nutrients and detoxifying benefits of ginger and you’ve got a delicious, healthy, and fat-reducing drink all-in-one.

4. Grapefruit and Rosemary Flat Belly Drink

Freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice is a powerhouse containing vitamin C, which helps to detoxify the body and lower cholesterol. Rosemary helps to detoxify the liver, which improves digestion and increases blood flow.
5. Blueberry-Carrot Smoothie Flat Belly Drink

Two of the best sources of antioxidants in one rich drink? Start your day the healthy way with fresh fruits and veggies containing the vitamins and minerals that our bodies crave. To keep that slim waistline, use non-fat milk or yogurt.

 

Green light for Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug.


A drug for treating children aged five and over with Duchenne muscular dystrophy will be available for around 50 youngsters through NHS England.

The medicines regulator NICE has recommended that Translarna (also known as ataluren) be used to help children who will receive the most benefit.

The drug has the potential to delay the loss of the ability to walk in children with the muscle-wasting disease.

Families and charities say they are delighted by the decision.

NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – has announced that Translarna should be made available under a “managed access agreement” between the company who makes it, PTC Therapeutics, and NHS England.

Archie Hill, 10, met David Cameron at 10 Downing St as part of the campaign to recommend the drug ataluren

This means that it can only be used to treat a small group of certain children – those with Duchenne caused by a particular mutation who are aged five years and over and who are still able to walk.

They will be treated for five years, allowing the company time to collect further data on the drug’s efficiency.

The company will now have to agree a cost for the drug which is acceptable to NHS England. Its list price is around £220,000 per year.

Extending walking time

NICE decided to recommend Translarna because there have been promising signs that it could delay the loss of walking for up to seven years.

In a recent clinical trial, none of the 47 children taking the drug lost the ability to walk over a period of nearly a year, compared with 8% of children on a placebo.

Children with the progressive disease typically become dependent on a wheelchair by the age of 12.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a severe progressive disease linked to the X-chromosome, affecting mostly boys.

There are 60 to 70 children born with the disease in England each year and around six to nine of them are affected by the “nonsense” mutation relevant to this drug.

Translarna works by allowing the body to ignore the mutation in the DNA and continue to produce the protein dystrophin, which protects the muscles from wasting.

The charity Muscular Dystrophy UK has been fighting for the drug to be made available on the NHS for some time.

Archie Hill, 10, met David Cameron at 10 Downing St as part of the campaign to recommend the drug ataluren

‘Clearer picture’

Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said the announcement was “wonderful news and a true victory for the families”.

And he said the agreement would allow them “to gain a clearer picture of the full potential of Translarna, and, crucially, to buy precious time for other promising potential treatments to reach licensing stage. It is a chance to transform childhoods”.

However he said he was concerned that it could take months for NHS England to implement the agreement and get the drug to clinic, having already waited 18 months for the decision.

He said: “We call on NHS England to act with the urgency and resolve that these children and their families deserve.”

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said the decision had been considered carefully because of the costs involved.

“NICE acknowledges that it represents a significant cost to the NHS at a time of increased pressure on funding and has considered this carefully against the uncertainties of its potential long-term benefits.

“This is why the committee has recommended the drug be made available for an initial period of five years, under strict conditions, to allow more data to be gathered on its efficacy, before the guidance is reviewed and a further decision made on whether funding should be continued.”

No commitment

Dr Peter Jackson, chair of the NICE highly specialised technologies evaluation committee, said the next five years would be crucial.

“The committee could not have recommended the drug without the agreement to limit its use to five years while more data is gathered.

“If the data shows that the drug is less effective in the longer term and doesn’t provide good value, the NHS is not committed to funding the drug in the long-term.”

Final guidance from NICE on Translarna will be published towards the end of May 2016 and NHS England then has three months to make it available to its patients.

Recently, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) denied automatic access to the drug through the NHS in Scotland.

In 2014, Translarna became the first drug addressing a genetic cause of Duchenne muscular dystrophy to be approved in the EU.

It has been available to families in a number of European countries for over a year.

Stephen Hawking’s ‘Starshot’ mission could get to Mars in 30 minutes


The $100 million Breakthrough Starshot initiative aims to use lasers to launch chip-sized probes at more than 25% the speed of light for 20-year journeys to Alpha Centauri.

Screen Shot 2016 04 12 at 12.14.06 PM

However, well before this project begins an interstellar journey, it could launch interplanetary missions to explore mysterious corners of our solar system — these lasers could drive “space-chips” to Mars in roughly 30 minutes, researchers say.

The Breakthrough Starshot initiative aims to use a huge ground-based laser to push swarms of “laser sails” outward. Light exerts very little pressure, but prior projects have already successfully tested a number of solar sails — spacecraft propelled by light from the sun. The laser array that Breakthrough Starshot plans could launch swarms of up to tens of thousands of probes per year.

The ambitious project faces numerous challenges. The project will have to sync up many lasers in a kilometer-scale “phased array” that can act like a single, unprecedentedly large 100-gigawatt laser. These beams will have to fire in perfect unison, focusing on tiny targets thousands of miles away, pushing the laser sails for minutes, swiveling to keep track of the probes as they arc through space, and relying on deformable mirrors known as adaptive optics to help them compensate for atmospheric distortion.

Researchers will also need to design miniaturized spacecraft that can pack all the equipment they need, and new materials to serve as flexible, durable, lightweight, highly reflective laser sails.

Before launching swarms of probes on interstellar journeys, it makes sense to first build expertise with interplanetary missions. “As we build larger arrays with higher and higher power levels that can shoot things out at higher and higher speeds, the logical place to first send them is elsewhere in the solar system,” says Breakthrough Starshot advisor Philip Lubin, an experimental cosmologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The 100-gigawatt array that Breakthrough Starshot plans could drive a 1-gram probe with a 1-meter-wide sail to more than 25% of the speed of light with just roughly 10 minutes of lasing. At these speeds, a space-chip could reach Mars in only roughly a half-hour.

Mars_atmosphere_2NASA

“Once you get this technology, it will allow you to fly missions any place in the solar system at remarkably fast speeds,” says science fiction author, NASA physicist, and Breakthrough Starshot advisor Geoffrey Landis. “Right now we’ve gotten pretty good at getting elsewhere in the inner solar system, like Mars and Venus, but when it comes to the outer solar system, especially Uranus and beyond, it can take an awful long time to get there, and sending probes with very high velocities that can get there in days would be quite an amazing thing.”

Another problem with sending interplanetary spacecraft on extremely fast journeys is stopping them afterwards. One solution is to not have them stop, embarking on flyby missions past targets instead, targets potentially including mysterious worlds thought to lurk past Pluto.

“There’s a vast amount of the solar system we know nothing about, and using the New Horizons spacecraft to fly past just one object at the very edge of the Kuiper Belt, Pluto, made us say, ‘Wow, we want more,'” Landis says. “It would be exciting sending probes to not just one or two of these objects, but to thousands of these objects.”

Another solution would be what Lubin calls “smart darts” — fast probes that collide with targets in impactor missions, much like NASA’s LCROSS probe did with the moon and NASA’sDeep Impact mission did with the comet Tempel 1. “You can learn a lot from impactors by performing an analysis of what you see after the impact,” Landis says. “Because you know what the impactor is made from and how fast it is going and how much energy it releases, analyzing what you see after you vaporize a small portion of target can tell you a lot about it.”

Still another solution would be, instead of launching tiny probes at ridiculously fast speeds, to send slightly larger probes at slower but still incredibly quick speeds. The larger probes could pack some kind of braking mechanism to slow themselves down so they can orbit or land on their targets. This braking mechanism could be a parachute, if the target has an atmosphere, like Mars, or an ion engine that uses electricity to drive a plume of propellant away from it. “You could even power the ion engine remotely using the laser array on Earth,” Lubin says. Landis notes that “no one has made ion engines tiny enough to fit on such small probes before — that’s an entirely new field to look at.”

The ultimate solution would involve placing another laser array at a desired destination that could slow down incoming laser sails: “what we call ‘ping pong mode,'” Lubin says. Although Landis notes that establishing such a braking array would be a challenge. “You wouldn’t just be talking about a merely exploratory system anymore — you’d now have a transportation system that you could use to send cargo across the solar system.”